From a hospital bed in the hallway at Kelowna General Hospital, Shawn Ponte made a plaintive call for help and thousands listened.
“My mental state is not very good …they threatened to kick me out of the hospital,” said Ponte in a video he posted to Faceook Jan. 3, that has since had thousands of views.
“I don’t know what to do. I need everybody to advocate. Please, I need help. I’m going nuts… please help me.”
Ponte explained he’d been taken to Kelowna General Hospital by air ambulance from Cranbrook with an infection in his dialysis line. Then he was set up in a bed in the hallway where he stayed for days.
“Once I arrived here the paramedics took me to my floor and dropped me off,” he said.
“They introduced me to the nurses and left.”
From there things got worse, he claimed, noting that he was neglected for hours at a time and requests for further assistance fell on deaf ears.
“So I got up and yelled so everyone could (hear), ‘Is anyone going to help me?'” he said.
Nobody did and the next four days he was in a hallway positioned near a speaker for a call bell that he said was “making (him) go mental.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do I’m going to rip it off the wall,” he said in another Facebook video. “I’ve been hearing it for the last few days now that I’ve been in the hallway.”
As those Facebook videos leaked into the community Ponte got some media attention and he’s since been relocated to a room where, he said, conditions have improved significantly.
“I got more sleep (Wednesday) night than I had through the rest of the week,” he said.
Part of what made that sleep so sound was the support he received.
“I was very surprised — I didn’t know I had that many people standing behind me,” he said.
By Friday he should have seen a specialist who can tell him if his infection subsided enough to allow the catheter tube for his dialysis to be reinserted. Then he’ll be headed back to Cranbrook.
“If anything goes wrong again, I don’t think I’ll be going to this facility again,” he said, adding there are several other patients who are still in the hallways.
Ponte’s case will be investigated further, but Andrew Hughes, health service administrator at Kelowna General HospitaI said while it’s not unusual during peak seasons for patients to be set up in hallways, it’s not at the cost of medical care.
“We’ve had this patient’s best interests at heart,” said Hughes. “We had him transported to KGH because he needed care that was not available in Cranbrook … I can say we provided all the medically required care upon admission and have met his needs.”
What’s been challenging hospital staff, however, is the sheer volume of patients.
“We are experiencing higher volumes,” said Hughes. “Typically we get surges, sometimes they last longer and right now we are seeing higher volumes of influenza and gastro-intestinal outbreaks.”
That’s meant that all of the hospital’s 407 beds were used when Ponte checked in. The hospital was actually over-capacity by 40 to 50 patients, and 30 had moved into overflow beds. That left 10, including Ponte, in the hallways.
Those patients, said Hughes, are generally able to walk and take advantage of other facilities within the hospital.
While the overflow scenario isn’t ideal, it’s unlikely that there will be an expansion in that regard.
“Interior Health’s strategy is to invest in primary care and community care so you can avoid hospital care,” said Hughes. “That’s a key piece to keep people healthier at home.”
Hughes added that he’s glad that Ponte brought his concerns forward, so the health authority can address them.
He also recommended that those who feel ill go to their GP, a walk-in clinic or call 811 unless it’s an emergency.